During her time at Colby, Theodora Wright Weston ’42 came to know legendary Dean Ninetta Runnals, chatted with visiting First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, traipsed around the pastures of Mayflower Hill (a favorite destination for Colby romance; she got poison ivy), and, in January of her senior year, got married.
It was a long engagement (three years), and a very brief middle-of-the-night ceremony in Connecticut, attended by “the guy who drove us and the wife of the minister.” Three days later her husband, University of Maine graduate and U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Don Weston, went to war.
This was a few weeks after Pearl Harbor was attacked, a day that lives in infamy—and in Weston’s vivid memory of the news reaching Colby. “It was a shocker,” she said. “We knew it had changed our world. It just had to. All this ‘peace at any price.’ You never heard any more about that.”
Instead it was a mass exodus, from Colby and the country, as men (and some women) joined the war effort. “The men were leaving,” Weston said. “They weren’t finishing. Many in my class didn’t graduate in forty-two. They left. They were called up before June.”
Lieutenant Weston, who ran artillery units and was eventually promoted to major, didn’t return for nearly four years, and their relationship was conducted through letters during that long separation.
“He never had any leave,” Weston said at her longtime home in Winterport, Maine. “There was no phone connection. You didn’t have any TV. None of the things they have now to work with. I don’t begrudge them, but it was different. All we had was what we could write to each other. We numbered our letters because they didn’t arrive in just the order you wrote them. We got up to nine-hundred ninety something or other.”
The letters are gone now, she said. They were mostly love letters, nothing she wanted to share, and besides, her husband wasn’t allowed to say anything about where he was or what he was doing. “I didn’t know where he was at all,” Weston said. “Just South Pacific. It was hot.”
A mathematics major, she spent the war years in Schenectady, N.Y., working at General Electric’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Weston did thousands of calculations by hand, though there was an early calculator. “It was stored on the top floor of one of those buildings,” Weston said. “We went to see it. It was as long as this whole house and full of purple lights.”
By June 1945 Weston was home at her family’s farm in Vermont. Her husband had been in the Philippines preparing for the invasion of Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped. (Later he would say that he wouldn’t have survived the invasion, as he would have been on the beach early to set up artillery.)
Theodora Weston has vivid memories of his return that November. “I just couldn’t believe it,” she said, smiling at the thought. “I saw him get off that train and I thought, ‘My God. He’s here.’”
The couple would soon move to Caribou, Maine, where Don Weston worked as an engineer, first at a pea-packing plant and later at Loring Air Force Base. They had four children and then moved to Winterport so he could take a job at Dow Air Force Base. They bought an antique Cape Cod house, where Weston still lives, not far from the Penobscot River. She taught mathematics at Hampden Academy, up the river. They both retired in 1979, and Don Weston died four years ago.
“It was tough, sitting home and worrying,” Weston said, recalling that time seven decades ago. “It really was. But how fortunate we were. How fortunate we were.”
—Gerry Boyle ’78